The M’s won 2 of 3 in Chicago to raise their record to 9-2. It’s as insane as it is beautiful!
I think we’re still all on the same page that the other shoe is going to drop at some point, but you can’t say this isn’t fun. The Mariners lead all of Major League Baseball in runs, hits, homers, and total bases; we’re second in doubles (tops in the A.L.), fourth in average (tops in the A.L.), sixth in on-base percentage (second in the A.L.), second in slugging (tops in the A.L.), second in OPS (tops in the A.L.), and second in run differential (tops in the A.L.). It’s the Dodgers, the Mariners, and everybody else.
And oh by the way, it’s the Mariners who lead everyone in the most important category of them all: Wins.
Of course, we’re not even halfway through the first full month of the season, so this constitutes more of a “streak” than a full-blown trend, but how can you not like what you’ve been seeing?
More importantly, if you were writing up the Best Case Scenario for what a Step-Back season would look like, this is it ALMOST to the letter.
Hitters are dominating.
More specifically: your future potential core looks terrific. Mitch Haniger is doing Mitch Haniger things. He’s not even fully warmed up yet, but more importantly he hasn’t taken any steps backward; there’s room for improvement. To the eye test, though, he’s right there. Then, there’s Domingo Santana, who looks like an MVP candidate through 11 games. He’s hitting over .300, he’s up there in homers, he leads the team in RBI and walks, and again with the eye test, he LOOKS like a #3 hitter in this lineup. We lost Cano, but we haven’t lost a step, and that’s important. Omar Narvaez is a welcome respite from Mike Zunino’s floundering at the plate. Mallex Smith hasn’t even gotten rolling, but he’s already wreaking havoc at the top of the lineup. Dee Gordon is doing Dee Gordon things. Tim Beckham still hasn’t cooled off. Even Daniel Vogelbach has exploded onto the scene, looking like that mashing DH prospect we all envisioned he could be when he first came here! And, while Ryon Healy hasn’t taken a step forward at the plate, considering he’s trying to muddle through a switch to third base, it’s remarkable in and of itself that he hasn’t taken a step back.
Then, on the flipside, your tradeable veterans are also looking solid. Jay Bruce’s average is down, but he’s leading a power-heavy lineup in homers. Edwin Encarnacion’s power is just starting to heat up, but he’s finding other ways to produce, hitting an even .300 and providing stability in the cleanup spot. A cold start for either of those guys would’ve reduced their value to absolute zero; this way should our winning ways slow down, and if a contending team has a need, we could flip them for better prospects than we gave up to bring them in.
On the pitching side of things, the starters look okay. Marco Gonzales is 3-0 and he’s coming off of a start where he pitched into the ninth inning while giving up just one run; he’s part of that future core. Yusei Kikuchi looks as good as advertised, but he also has room for improvement (a less-inept defense behind him would probably help make his numbers look a little better); he’s also part of the future core. Mike Leake is probably the best starter in the rotation in the early going; he’s a guy we will probably flip at the deadline for prospects. The rest of the rotation is made up more or less of placeholders, but it’s always better to see these guys succeed, in the event we want to wheel and deal later on.
The key to this whole Step-Back is seeing what you have out of your bullpen. What young guys do we have that we can build around for the near future when we hope to contend again? What guys can we trade? If the hitters hit well and the starters succeed, what do we care if the bullpen is a little wacky and gives up leads late?
The Mariners could very well be 11-0 if they had a competent bullpen; as it stands what’s making this Step-Back season not-quite perfect is that we’re not blowing ENOUGH leads! A quality offense, with quality starters, whose bullpen blows tons of games, rendering our record good enough for a Top 10 draft pick in 2020 is the ultimate Best Case Scenario, and I feel like we’re just about there.
In the meantime, if this team gains a little extra confidence with a scorching-hot start, who am I to complain? Let’s keep the good times rolling in this series against a down Royals team this week!